Making Design Stick with “Zenith”

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Tori Neundorfer's work was featured in Zenith. Photo courtesy of Mary Cameron.

            The trendy graphic design focus within the Bachelor of Fine Arts course of study at CSU may still be developing in stages, but its latest batch of graduates is already having success working in their field. The program is challenging students to use experimental ways of communicating the CSU brand into the world and some seniors say that they’ve reached zenith. 

   The word “zenith” means “the time at which something is most powerful” and was the title of this year’s end-of-semester mixed media show at the Corn Center’s Illges Gallery for 12 art students, three of which are graphic designers available for hire. Some students stayed on an extra semester to finish the new design curriculum and take classes in illustration and animation, in addition to photography, painting and printmaking.

   Senior Andrew Williams, who transferred into the program, in 2016 said that it “gave [him] security, in [his[ skills, and, made [him] more aware of [his] execution,” about his thesis work: a series of magazine covers addressing mental health. “Printmaking was eye opening,” he said. “And my first step into design.”  

   Tori Neundorfer, of Tori Storm Design, created a project called “Stick it to the Thesis” by designing over 200 stickers pulled from typography logos she created that included those for local clients such as The Columbus Collective, Choose Columbus, and Uptown Columbus. She said it was challenging to create one poster per day for 50 days—an assignment from Assistant Professor of Art in Graphic Design Nicholas McMillian—but she enjoyed it.

   “We are only the second class of designers to graduate,” said Neundorfer. “We’re trying to find our place within the gallery setting among fine artists.” 

   Neundorfer commented on her project: , “I want to show how we see design walking down the street, like on the drain pipe outside Fountain City Coffee Company.” The concept of taking objects out of the landscape, and installing stop signs, and skateboards, in a gallery is “odd,” she said, “but shows how much we overlook.” 

   “When I moved here for college from Newnan, I fell in love with the city,” she said. “It has a fun, creative atmosphere and there’s people here who care about building that, but not a lot of designers yet, who devote time to small businesses and startups.” 

Tori Neundorfer poses with one of her exhibited pieces. Photo courtesy of Mary Cameron.

   She said that McMillan is instrumental in getting students jobs on campus, for the University like designing the CSU Christmas card, newsletters for Student Affairs and the Art Department. CSU students also attend the annual “Creative South” design conference. 

   Community offerings also helped Neundorfer learn the business side of design and she completed StartUP Columbus’ Co.Starters entrepreneurship coursework during her student days. “I love our Art Department,” she said. “But we don’t learn about working with clients.”

   That is changing, with recent faculty additions, like Assistant Professor of Art in Animation, Demetrius Dukes. A film for the Schwob School of Music called “Little Star” kicked off the program, and students were part of choosing its staff. “Professor Dukes is a perfect fit,” said senior Sarah Grace Drop. “He helped bring in commercial arts.”

   Overall, this class, wants to push things further. “People want to invest in that in Columbus,” said Neundorfer. “That community has been under the surface and since the arts have come up in the last couple of years. I think design will show itself just as strong.”

One of Tori Neundorfer’s pieces in the gallery. Photo courtesy of Mary Cameron.

   Genasis Jeziorski, who took a printmaking focus, said having access to the Bo Bartlett Center, which is a cornerstone of the Corn Center “inspired not what I make but how to show it.” 

   Bartlett attended “Zenith” and described the culmination, saying “You always adjust your expectations as you move something forward into reality. Once it starts then it can change, and you go with what it wants to be.”

   McMillian concluded “We’re finishing up my third year and are finding ways to do it bigger and better, and have these students be an inspiration to those coming up.”

   “Sometimes, students don’t cut it,” he admitted. “But developing a competitive program is hard, and not everybody can be great at it. We want to have the best students at Columbus State in the design program, doing great work for the community, but realize that our market is small, so to really be successful we need a quality reputation.”